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The C2 Cloud Manager Value Play: IT in a Business Context

Posted by Justin Nemmers

5/13/13 12:53 PM

 car fleet cloud manager CFO and CTO

The march toward simplicity in technology and data centers is one that grows more difficult with every technical innovation that occurs. For years, CIOs and IT managers have maintained that standardization on a select provider’s toolset will help simplify their IT enterprise. “Standardize!  Reduced fragmentation will set you free,” the typical IT vendors will shout. However, reality is just not that simple. I’ve made some other cases for why the mentality of strict standardization isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be, but I’m going to take a different approach this time. 

One problem that I hear pretty frequently when talking to customers’ non-IT leadership and management is that they frequently lament that their IT organizations just don’t understand how the business actually needs to; not just consume IT, but also track and measure various metrics from an IT organization in ways that make sense to the business.

Let’s look at this a bit more practically for a moment. I used this analogy with a CFO last week, and it resonated well in describing the real issue that the non-IT leadership types have with IT as a whole.

In a large pharmaceutical company, there is a fleet of company-owned cars. A recall is needed on one year of a particular model because of poor paint quality. Upon learning that information, the fleet manager can not only tell you exactly how many of those cars she has in her fleet, but also tell you exactly who each car is assigned to, which ones are green, and the home address of that car. The fleet manager is able to present information about her part of the business in a way that makes sense to management. How is it that IT does not operate with the same level of intelligence?

Now let’s apply the same thought process to IT. The CFO wants to know what percentage of the IT budget is being used by a particular project. Enter the IT organization. The real numbers behind the CFO’s request are daunting. The IT organization is juggling thousands of VMs, different licensing models and costs for software, different hardware, multiple data center locations, and a convoluted org chart, just to name a few. Different environments have different cost structures, and therefore add complexity to reporting because of the requirement to understand not just what a VM is running, but where it is running.

And that’s a relatively uncomplicated example. What happens when you start to add things like applications, software licenses, configuration management tools (HP SA! Puppet! Chef! Salt Stack!), multiple data centers, differing virtualization technologies (VMware! Xen! KVM!), multiple versions of the same technology, multiple project teams accessing shared resources, multiple Amazon web services public cloud accounts, etc.

From a seemingly simple request, we have revealed the main frustration that the non-IT leadership faces nearly every time they have a seemingly simple request. At core to the problem is that the IT processes and technologies were not built in a way to provide this transparency. Instead, technologies such as virtualization, cloud, networking, etc. were designed and implemented to provide high availability, and meet an SLA. They were not designed to offer reporting transparency, or cost accountability. The end result:  IT the Business cannot understand IT, and vice versa.

The good news is that the capabilities needed to resolve this imbalance are present today. When implemented in an environment, CloudBolt enables IT managers to answer the questions their non-IT leadership is asking. “CloudBolt enables IT in a Business Context”. CloudBolt C2 solves more than just the problems that CIO, CTO, and IT Directors and Managers have. For the first time, C2 enables the non-tech leadership to view IT in a way that’s analogous to how they look at any other portion of their business, which is both good for business, and IT. 

It’s time for IT in a Business Context. It’s time for Business-Driven IT.

Take a look at our Benefits Overview, and see how we can make a difference today.

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Topics: IT Challenges, Enterprise, Business Challenges, IT Organization, Vendors

What is Plain Old Virtualization, Anyway? Not Cloud, That's What.

Posted by Justin Nemmers

5/6/13 3:57 PM

it organization underwater overloaded

I speak with a lot of customers. For the most part, many understand that virtualization is not actually “Cloud”, but rather an underpinning technology that makes cloud (at least in terms of IaaS and PaaS) possible. There are many things that a heavily virtualized environment needs in order to become cloud, but one thing is for certain: “Plain Old Virtualization” needs to learn a lot of new tricks in order to effectively solve the issues facing today’s IT organizations.

Many of those same organizations find themselves constantly underwater when it comes to the expectations from the business they’re tasked with supporting. The business wants X, the IT organization has X-Y resources. Cloud is an important tool that will help narrow this gap, but IT organizations need the right tools to make it happen.

Virtualization Alone is no Longer Sufficient

At plain old virtualization’s core is the virtualization manager. Whether it’s vCenter or XenServer, or some other tool, plain old virtualization lacks the necessary extensibility to get organizations to cloud. Even virtualization managers that have added some capabilities like a self-service portal or metered usage accounting are fundamentally just a hypervisor manager, and typically they only focus on their own virtualization technology.

Plain old virtualization doesn’t understand your business, either. It is devoid of any notion of user or group resource ownership, and lacks the flexibility needed to layer in the organizational structure into the IT environment. Instead of presenting various IT consumption options, plain old virtualization tells an organization how it needs to consume IT—in other words, IT Administrators have to get involved, chargeback isn’t possible, and the technology has little if any understanding of organizational or business structure. 

Plain old virtualization is a solved problem. The value proposition for virtualization is well understood, and accepted in nearly every cross-section of IT. Virtualization managers have matured to enable additional features like high availability, clustering, and live migration, which have allowed IT organizations to remove some unneeded complexity from their stacks.

Failings of Plain Old Virtualization Managers

Many vendors that offer perfectly good plain old virtualization managers are in a process of metamorphosis. They’re adjusting their products, acquiring other technologies, and generally updating and tweaking their virtualization managers so the vendors can claim they “enable cloud”. Whether the new capabilities are added as layered products that are components of a (much) larger solution suite, or merely folding those capabilities into an ever-expanding virtualization manager, the result is a virtualization manager that tries to be more than it is. The customer ultimately pays the price for that added complexity, and often, experiences increased vendor lock-in.

One of the many promises of cloud is that it frees IT organizations to make the most appropriate technology decisions for the business. This is where plain old virtualization that is trying to be cloud really gets an IT organization in trouble. Often, the capabilities presented by these solutions are not sufficient to solve actual IT issues, and the effort to migrate away from those choices is deemed too costly for IT organizations to effectively achieve without significant re-engineering or technology replacement.

CloudBolt Effectively Enables Cloud From Your Virtualization

The good news is that IT organizations don’t need to do entire reboots of existing tech in order to enable cloud in their environments. CloudBolt C2 works in conjunction with existing virtualization managers, allowing IT organizations to present resources to consumers in ways that make sense to both business and consumer alike. C2 does not require organizations to replace their existing virtualization managers; instead, it provides better management and a fully functional and interactive self-service portal so IT consumers can request servers and resources natively.

Flexibility in the management layer is critical, and one place where plain old virtualization tools fall down pretty regularly. C2 is a tool that effectively maps how your IT is consumed to how your business is organized. Try to avoid inflexible tools that offer your IT organization little choice now and even less going forward into the future.

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Topics: IT Challenges, Management, Virtualization, IT Organization

Cloud Managers Will Change IT Forever

Posted by John Menkart

2/20/13 10:37 AM

In numerous conversations with customers and analysts it has become clear that a consensus across the industry is that Cloud Managers are as game changing for IT as server and network virtualization themselves.  Among those looking longer term at the promise of Cloud Computing (Public, Private and Hybrid), it is clear that the Cloud Manager will become the keystone of value.  Many people’s opinion is that Cloud Managers are the initiator of next major wave of change in IT environments.  How?  Well let’s look to the past to predict the future.

Proprietary Everything

Back in the early 80’s, general purpose computers were first spreading across the business environment. These systems were in the form of fully-proprietary Mainframes, Minicomputers. The hardware (CPU, Memory, Storage, etc.), Operating Systems and any even any available software were all from the specific computer manufacturer (vendors included DEC, Prime, Harris, IBM, HP, DG amongst others).  Businesses couldn’t even acquire compilers for their systems from a third party.  They were only available from the system’s manufacturer.

Commodity OS leads to Commodity Hardware

Agility and maturity of IT environments step 1

The advent of broad interest and adoption of Unix started a sea change in the IT world.  As more hardware vendors supported Unix it became easier to migrate from one vendor’s system to another.  Additionally, vendors began building their systems based on commodity x86-compatible microprocessors as opposed to building proprietary CPU architectures optimized around their proprietary OS.

Architecture-compatible hardware not only accelerated the move to commodity OS (Unix, Linux and Windows), but in turn, increased pressure on vendors to fully commoditize server hardware.  The resulting commoditization of hardware systems steeply drove down prices.  To this day, server hardware largely remains a commodity.

Virtualization Commoditizes Servers


Agility and maturity of IT environments step 2

Despite less expensive commodity operating systems and commodity hardware, modernizing enterprise IT organizations were still spending large sums on new server hardware in order to accommodate the rapidly growing demand of new applications.  In large part, IT organizations had a problem taking full advantage of the hardware resources they are spending on.  Server utilization become a real issue.  Procurement of servers still took a considerable amount of time due to organizational processes.  Every new server required a significant amount of effort to purchase, rack and stack, and eventually deploy.  Power and cooling requirements became a significant concern.  The integration of storage, networking, and software deployment and maintenance still caused considerable delays into workflows that are reliant on new hardware systems.

Server virtualization arrives commercially in the late 1990’s and starts getting considerable traction in the mid 2000’s.  Virtualization of the underlying physical hardware provides an answer to the thorny utilization issue by enabling multiple individual server workloads that have low individual utilization to be consolidated on a single physical server.  Virtualization also provides a limited  solution for the  the procurement problem, and helps with the power and cooling issues posed by rampant hardware server growth. Areas of networking, storage, and application management remain disjointed, and typically still require similar times to effectively implement as before the advent of virtualization thus becoming a major impediment to flexibility in the enterprise IT shops.

Now we find ourselves in 2013.  Most enterprise IT shops have implemented some level of virtualization. All of the SaaS and Cloud-based service providers have standardized on virtualization. Virtual servers can be created rapidly and at no perceived cost other than associated licenses, so VM Servers are essentially a commodity, although the market share for the underlying (enabling) technology is clearly in VMware’s favor at this point.

The problem with these commodity VM servers is that making them fully available for use still hinges on integrating them with other parts of the IT environment that are far from commodity and complex to configure.  The VM’s dependency on network, automation tools, storage, etc. hinder the speed and flexibility of the IT group to configure and provide rapid access to these resources for the business.

Network Virtualization arrives

A huge pain point in flexibly deploying applications and workloads is the result of networking technology still being largely based on the physical configuration of network hardware devices across the enterprise. The typical enterprise network is both complex and fragile, which is a condition that dos not encourage rapid change in the network layer to accommodate business or mission application requirements. An inflexible network which is available is always preferred to a network that failed because of unintended consequences of a configuration change.

In much the same way as Server Virtualization abstracted the server from the underlying hardware, Network virtualization completely abstracts the logical network from the physical network.  Using network virtualization it is now possible to free the network configuration from the physical devices, enabling rapid deployment of new, and more efficient management of existing virtual networks.  Rapid adoption of network virtualization technology in the future is all but guaranteed.

Commoditizing all IT resources and compute


Agility and maturity of IT environments step 3

With both network and server virtualization, we are closer than ever to the real benefit of 'Cloud Computing': the promise of  fully commoditized IT resources and compute.  To get there, however, we need to coordinate and abstract the management and control the modern enterprises’ internal IT resources and compute resources being consumed in external public cloud providers.

To enable rapid and flexible coordination of the IT resources, the management of those enterprise application resources must be abstracted from the underlying tools.  The specific technologies (server virt, network virt, automation, storage, public cloud provider, etc.) involved are viewed as commodity, and can be exchanged or deprecated without negatively affecting the business capabilities of the enterprise IT. Additionally this abstraction allows the IT organization to flexibly adopt new and emerging technologies to add functionality and capability without exposing the business to the often sharp edges leading edge technology.

The necessary resource abstraction and control is the domain of the not just the virtualization manager-- but really the Cloud Manager. In short, the Cloud Manager commoditizes compute by commoditizing the IT resources across the enterprise and beyond.

With such an important role it is no wonder that every vendor wants to pitch a solution in this space. The orientation or bias of the various vendors’ approaches in developing a Cloud Manager for enterprise IT will play a critical role in the ultimate success of the products and customers that implement them.

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Topics: Network Virtualization, IT Challenges, Virtualization, Cloud Manager, John, Enterprise, IT Organization, Agility, Compute, Hardware

VMware Lab Manager is going away and CloudBolt C2 can take over.

Posted by Justin Nemmers

1/24/13 6:11 PM

I happened to catch Brandon Butler’s article talking about the replacement choices customers have now that VMware’s Lab Manager product is being discontinued.  There has been no shortage of vendors to quickly put their hands up with claims such as “no net new costs” or offering new cloud service provider options to help those customers move to something new and better.  Some of these solutions still require you to upgrade from vCenter 4 to 5.  Others are overly complicated, or require you to use something different than vCenter-based virtualization altogether.

VMware Lab Manager discontinued
Your Lab Manager installation will be far less functional (or colorful) in a few months.

Beyond self-service provisioning, this is a great opportunity for a VMware Lab Manager customer to extend their capabilities while:

  • requiring a minimum of both effort and changes to their process
  • allowing the organization the option of utilizing public cloud resources 

Too good to be true?  Hardly!

For starters, CloudBolt Command and Control (C2) is amazingly easy to install and configure.  Download the virtual appliance, import it into your vCenter cluster (it even works on version 4!), and you’re off to the races.  With most installation and configurations taking less than 20 minutes, CloudBolt C2 can start deploying instances in your vCenter environment almost immediately.  Not only can your users easily provision their resources using CloudBolt C2’s self service interface, but you’ll get the easy ability to seamlessly use public cloud resources, if desired. 

CloudBolt C2 is much more capable than that, too…  but I’ll save the best for last after a recap, of course…

  • You have VMware Lab Manager
  • You have vCenter
  • You need to rapidly and repeatedly provision instances

Of course, CloudBolt C2 do all of that, but we’ve got a special treat.  CloudBolt C2 Virtualization Edition is free to use for up to 100 managed VMs.  I’m not even saying no net new cost.  I’m saying no cost.  How’s that for an option? 

Get C2 Product Overview
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Topics: Management, Consumability, VMware, IT Organization, People

Gartner Research & Linthicum: CIO’s Need to Deploy Cloud Management

Posted by Justin Nemmers

1/24/13 12:51 PM

In a recent posting, David Linthicum discusses how a Gartner survey reports CIOs are saying more now than ever that cloud is a top priority.  He continues to say these same CIOs are at risk if they’re not moving their organizations toward Cloud Computing.  As he says “No surprise there.”

CIO House For Sale

CIOs - Either figure out a way to leverage cloud technology, or get into real estate


I think that there are several thoughts worth digging into a little more:

  • The average CIO’s IT organization is under a full-frontal assault by public cloud technologies which show users that a highly agile IT organization is not only possible, but it’s happening right now. 
  • Even if a business is not investigating or actively using public cloud, internal users still understand how quickly they should be able to get new resources delivered.
  • Groups that already have either public cloud deployments, or public cloud/other internal deployments, the IT organization’s ability to rapidly deliver new resources is key.  Over time, those organizations will look more like broker/providers as they gain significant agility from structural changes, and will be able to support both public and private deployments based on what’s best for the requested workload.
  • Any realistic cloud deployment plan has to include updates to process and procedures—i.e. you have to modify the organizational structure to be successful. 

It’s great that CIOs are (again) making a verbal commitment to investigate and implement cloud technologies, but as Linthicum says, “I suspect some CIOs did not respond to the Gartner survey honestly and will continue to kick plans to develop a cloud strategy further down the road.”

So how do you even get started?  My recommendation to CIOs:  Start by identifying some low-hanging fruit.  Deploy a Cloud Management Platform technology that enables cloud services such as IaaS and PaaS using your existing technology pool.  Then, pick a particularly savvy part of your user base, and push them into a IaaS/PaaS model using a modicum of surplus resources and this new technology.  As you work out the kinks, expand the project to cover more groups and workloads.  It’s a winning model, and I believe that many of these groups will find it considerably easier implement or expand cloud implementations and projects. 

In the end, Dave’s got it right…  Cloud might seem difficult, but I’m guessing that the real estate market is tougher.

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Topics: IT Organization, People, Agility, CIO